Thursday was our last full day in Italy, and after breakfast at our swanky hotel, Ian and I went back to Saint Mark’s Square to visit the Palace of the Doge. I’m glad we left plenty of time for this, because the place was a maze (and amazing)! Entry was 32 EU for two people, and yes, I’m wearing the same outfit as the day before, but most of my clothing was running related, so cut me some slack.
One of the added bonuses of visiting the Palace of the Doge is that you get to travel through the Bridge of Sighs to the old prison. Apparently, the bridge got its name from prisoners sighing as they glimpsed Venice, where they had previously been free, before they were locked up.
After a couple of hours exploring the courtyard, prison, and impressive apartments, we left to find lunch (and gelato), before revisiting some of the shops we had looked in yesterday to buy a few things: a Venetian mask, a couple of murano glasses, and a gift for Ian’s mum. Then we went back to the hotel to drop things off and have a quick rest.
We had decided that we had eaten enough, and didn’t really want much for dinner, so we thought we would go by one of the many tourist traps next to the Rialto for a picturesque (and overpriced) drink, before hunting down the spiral staircase we had seen from the top of the bell tower the day before. As gondolas were a bit pricey, we opted for the water taxi along the Grand Canal to the Saint Mark’s stop, and planned to walk back to the Rialto.
After the park, we walked to the Rialto and surveyed our choices. We eventually decided upon one of the ‘eateries’, and, as it wasn’t too busy, requested one of the canalside seats outside. The waiter looked a bit annoyed (especially as I had already asked him how much the cover charge was for eating there), but we sat down and looked through the menu, just in case something took our fancy. It didn’t, especially at nearly 20 EU for a starter, so when the waiter eventually returned (we had to signal for him 3 times), I ordered a beer, and Ian ordered an Aperol spritz. The waiter then asked, “And for food?” We told him we were just there for a quick drink, at which he glared at us, whisked the menus away from us, and snapped, “No, restaurant only!” and stepped aside for us to leave. With an attitude like that, we were both glad to oblige, but he, and several other waiters, kept their gaze on us until we were out of sight. It would seem they’re more than pleasant to lure customers in, but all they’re concerned about is fleecing tourists.
We ended up finding a nearby pub down one of the Calles where we enjoyed a beer, before setting off to find the staircase. Thankfully, there was still some daylight when we reached it, but it was behind a large gate as there is, apparently, renovation work going on.
I had seen a shop on our walk that I wanted to revisit (and the man working there had said they were open until 10:30), so we decided to try and navigate back there. Stopping, of course, for a gelato. When we found the shop, we spoke quite a while with Paolo, the man who worked there. He had worked in one the glass factories on Murano for several years finishing all the glasswork, and explained how some of the different pieces were made. He also told us how many Venetians were having to move to the mainland because they could no longer afford to live in Venice. Much of this, he believed, was down to migrant workers offering to work for more hours and lower wages, and cheap imports being sold to tourists. He pointed us in the direction of a traditional Venetian bar, and off we went.
After a couple more drinks, we decided to head back to the hotel, but Ian, after hearing about the influx of imported glass, was concerned that the bracelet he had bought me the day before was fake, and stopped by to ask Paolo about it. Paolo reassured us it was genuine, and even took one from the shop and put it on my wrist to compare, before telling me to keep it!
He asked us if we had been to Saint Mark’s at night, which we hadn’t, and told us it is worth seeing if we had time. He also talked about how it floods during winter, which is great fun for tourists, but not so fabulous for the locals. We said goodight, again, and went to Saint Mark’s, which was quite spectaculer, apart from the vendors trying to sell light up toys all over the place.
Finally, as we began our journey back to the hotel, we ran into Paolo on his way home! We stopped and chatted a bit more, before saying our final (for real this time) farewells, and walking back to our room.
The next morning, we woke up early, showered, packed, and had breakfast, before saying goodbye to our luxurious room in Venice:
We checked out, crossed the bridge to the station, and caught the train to Mestre, where we decided to just bite the bullet, and get a taxi to Marco Polo airport. We had no idea what to expect, as the display started at 35 EU, but that turned out to be the standard fare to the airport, leaving us with just enough money to buy a bottle of Aperol for back home, a small chocolate bar to share on the plane, and a packet of San Daniele ham to enjoy before the flight. A flight with enough turbulence to give me a 2 hour heart attack, but with beautiful views to nearly make up for it.
And now, over a week later, the holiday is well and truly over. This time next week, I’ll (hopefully) be battling through pain to finish the Highland Fling, but first? A 4 day week at school, which is possibly going to be an even bigger shock to the system.